The Jim Stenholm Memorial Ride, out to Anthem and back from north Phoenix. Approximately 1,100 ft of climbing.
“Wow,” I said to one my friends as I surveyed the parking lot at Desert Horizon Park in north Phoenix last Saturday. “This is a veritable who’s who of the Phoenix cycling scene. Anybody who is anybody is here.”
“And everyone thinks they are somebody,” my friend replied.
The occasion was the Jim Stenholm Memorial Ride, put on by the 100 Club of Arizona for a police officer and avid cyclist who had passed away a few years ago. Though this ride had full police escort and two sag stops, it was “free” — with a suggested $25 donation.
This event had little advertising – most knew about it by word of mouth. Those who rode it last year kept saying what a great ride it was, and the word spread. Whereas last year they had 100-200 riders, this time it was almost double that – well, they said they had 350 signed waivers anyway. There were probably those that didn’t bother signing in, so who knows the actual count.
I saw multiple friends and acquaintances hailing from numerous clubs and groups throughout the valley. It was fun seeing everyone together at the same event.
(And drats, I forgot to bring my camera. It would have been great to have pictures to post here.)
The ride started out as one large pack – and would stay that way most of the day. We had motorcycle police escort, and they kept the speed an average of 21 mph, with traffic held at intersections for us.
Not everybody was keen on riding in such a large pack. Many complained about it. Me, I didn’t care. I searched for spots with plenty of buffer space, towards the tail end of the pack, so I could maneuver out of the way if need be. Besides, with only a few exceptions, it looked to me that most of the riders were experienced cyclists. I recognized many.
One of my less-experienced friends asked me at the first rest stop about how to ride in such a large pack.
“How did you manage to keep other cyclists from crowding you?” she asked.
“Well, not taking a shower for a week certainly helps,” I replied.
Seriously though, we did have to stay on our toes. The pack was constantly speeding up and slowing down as our escorts adjusted their speed. Afterwards, one of the motorcycle cops told me they were trying to keep the pack the right shape – not too bunched up, and not too strung out, so they wouldn’t have to hold the intersections open too long. Seemed like a reasonable compromise.
The ride reminded me of one of those mass start events, like Tour de Tucson, except this was much smaller, and more importantly, there was no racing. No one was allowed to ride out front of the police escort. At the beginning, a few cyclists — from a club that will go unnamed – didn’t quite get that this was a ride, not a race. These riders were weaving in and out and across the pack carelessly. Eventually the pack settled down.
Officers were continuously riding along on the left side, telling us to “keep to the curb lane.” But invariably the pack would widen and take all available lanes going our way, and sometimes, there were riders riding in the opposite lane of traffic – and right in the presence of the cops too!
You have to wonder about that kind of mentality.
We had two rest stops, one at North Valley Parkway and Carefree Highway, the other at Jomax and Cave Creek Rd. Just standard rest stop fare of bananas, gatorade, fig newtons, and cookies. Afterwards, we were treated to a lunch of Famous Dave’s barbeque sandwiches. It was a pleasant way to spend the noon hour: sitting on shaded grass in the park, temps in the 70’s, chatting with riders from various clubs — like one big family picnic.
All in all, it was an enjoyable if unusual event. I’ve never ridden in such a large pack for that long a distance before. Though not fast by the standards of most cyclists who attended (I suspect), your legs do tire after 54 miles of a steady 21 mph pace.
I don’t think they will need to advertise this event next year. If this year is any indication, the number of riders could easily double again, just by word of mouth.