Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mt Hopkins for Brunch, Fantasy Island for Dessert

Some more good riding today, but not all was good. The plan was to head south towards the Mexican border to hit possibly the best hillclimb in Arizona, Mt Hopkins. Then on the return to the B&B, we'd ride all of the Fantasy Island material. Despite confirmation that essential riding gear was packed, Dave double checked when we were well on our way to Mt Hopkins. No shoes. Well that sucked, just took away our margin on getting in a full Fantasy Island ride.

We started the Hopkins climb around 10:30am. This climb is over 19 miles long, gains 5500ft, most of it on a one lane dirt road at 8-9% grade. This was my third time to climb this beast, Dave's first.  The sky was cloudless, temps cool around 65F to start. We established a solid tempo pace, something I wasn't sure I could maintain non-stop for 2-2.5hrs. The prior two times I've climbed Hopkins, I cramped before reaching the summit. It sucks cramping on a monotonic climb. There is no recovery.

I've also nearly frozen to death heading back down both prior times. This time I brought enough layers along to avoid the frigid descent. It seems to always be windy and about 30 degrees colder up top than at the bottom. We started seeing snow around 6500ft. A little above 7000ft, we both capitulated and put some of our long layers on. Davie continued first, forcing me to chase. He was whining earlier about his legs being toast, which was pure bull. Tried as I did, I could not close the gap over the remaining 700ft vertical. The finishing grade tops out at 24% for a good bit. It basically terminates on a huge rock outcropping at the summit, on which a multi-story observatory structure is perched. I was pleased to see Dave barely able to stand gasping for air at 8500ft. I was in the same sorry state. It took me 2:25 to reach the summit, probably a PR, but I don't ever race pace Hopkins.

The wind was calm up top and it was not as cold as I expected, maybe 50F. You could see 100 miles in all directions. It was my best view yet from this summit. I took a bunch of pictures, put the wind shell on, and got ready for descent fatigue. The plummet is non-stop switchbacks and blind corners. You never know when a car might be coming up. Duing the climb, we encountered only an ATV on the long dirt section, and a car near the summit on the last paved bit by the observatories. One truck was coming up during the descent.  That's what I like about this climb, we pretty much have it to ourselves.

Mt Hopkins climb, starting from Amado on left.

It took 55 minutes to reach the car. We loaded the bikes, then hit the road for Fantasy Island back in Tucson. We had to go out of our way to fuel back up on Starbucks, of course. It was mid afternoon unloading the bikes at the Fantasy Island trailhead. Refilled Camelbak. Check. Restart GPS. Check. Grab fanny pack with camera. Uh, oh. No fanny pack. Think real hard. Did I leave it on the car and drive away? I went ballistic. [Wreckless comment removed - HJ] You see, I also had the B&B key with contact info in there with the camera.

We decided to bag the Fantasy Island ride and flew, like 90+ mph back to Amado to see if camera might still be in or along the road. It wasn't. No surprise. That was a new camera, the one I planned to take to Italy in several weeks. It will cost $500 to replace, if I can even find another LX3. I finally found a small camera that took decent photos, and I lose it.

We went back to Fantasy Island, now with the sun low in the sky. We planned to hit what we could. I had a shit load of angst to burn off and all-out hammered. Wish I could bottle some of that up for my next race. Dave had no idea what he had gotten into. I had planned to ride mostly the techy stuff close to the Irvington trailhead, but somehow I ended up on the Valencia loop I wanted to avoid. It is fast and featureless. It was all good, as not much of Sunday's ride will be buff. I pretty much stayed in the big ring, at times dodging cholla cactus at 20+ mph. Nearly crashed myself twice. I actually started enjoying myself and stopped dwelling on the lost camera. The sun set around 6:35 and then we hit Rez Loop. I thought surely we'd be popping out in complete darkness with no lights. That added even more motivation to hammer. It gets dark really fast after sunset in the desert. I don't know why. I've learned this on my many visits here now.

We made it back to the car with no more than a few minutes of useable light to spare. We covered about 18 miles in 1.3hrs, an impressive average speed considering how tight some of the stuff is and the penalty of biffing in a catus forest. The one possitive of riding it this late was there was nobody out there. We saw one other rider. It was pretty much all ours to hammer.

Fantasy Island track. We didn't have enough daylight to hit
Burro, Christmas Tree or Bo's.

As of publishing this post, nobody has called the B&B yet. I really don't expect to see that camera again. I had taken some great photos from the climb too. I brought an old compact camera for backup. Figures that I'll need it now. All I have to show for today's riding are boring GPS tracks. Turns out Dave forgetting his shoes in the morning was nothing compared to driving all the way to Amado again to look for a camera that had slim to none chance of still being there.

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