Heart of Arizona

Heart of Az

Heart of Az profile

Heart of Arizona ride (Hey! It does look like a heart!) in the, er, … heart of Arizona, which starts in Congress, AZ, some 60 miles northwest of Phoenix. Put on by the Bullshifter’s Club of Phoenix, this ride features a combined century and double metric century route. Approximately 8,300 feet of climbing for the full route, perhaps 7,000 feet for century.

November 5, 2011

Every fall the Bullshifter’s club puts on a ride northwest of Phoenix that is one of the toughest organized century rides in the state. I’ve never done this ride – in the past I’ve always had a conflict on this weekend. Today I had no such conflict, but alas, due to injury, I still couldn’t ride the course.

So I decided to volunteer with sag and rest stop support, traveling around with Jim and Robin and helping out where I could at the first and fourth rest stops. I didn’t really do all that much – because Robin wouldn’t let me lift anything — after I had told her that I had learned the hard way to be wary of such activities due to my shoulder injury. I guess I should have just kept my mouth shut before-hand (Just kidding!)

This is the first time I’ve ever volunteered at a cycling event, and it was interesting getting a different perspective. My main observation: It’s amazing how fast cyclists can do 100 miles. Even though I’ve ridden many, many centuries myself, I don’t think I’ve fully appreciated the speed we humans can go under our own power, nor have I fully appreciated the efficiency of the lowly bicycle.  Driving the route in Jim’s truck, it seemed we never had much time to dally between stops. Once we were stopped, it wouldn’t take long before the first cyclists would come rolling in.

This year’s event didn’t have a big attendance (50 riders). A weather front moved in the day before, with rain and a big drop in temperatures. It had even snowed the night before on Yarnell Pass and the mountains north towards Prescott. It was rather chilly in the morning, and the skies did not look promising. I know if I had signed up to do the ride and had seen the forecast and poked my head out the door in the morning, I probably would have went back to bed. As it was, I sauntered out at 4:00 am, and made the drive to Jim and Robin’s so I could hitch a ride with them for the day.

For those riders that did make the effort to come out, it turned into a nice day for a bike ride, if a bit chilly.

Here are a few photos I took throughout the day. Many were shot from the back seat of Jim’s moving truck, out the front window. And those that weren’t shot that way – I had trouble holding the camera and snapping the shutter. It’s difficult for me to raise the camera to eye level right now. Oh well…


Early morning scene on Hwy 93, about 10 miles into the ride. We were worried about possible rain, maybe even snow, but the skies never closed in any further than this, and the day would be pleasant, if a bit chilly.


The iffy weather made for great photos. This stretch of road isn’t usually quite so scenic, but the clouds and early morning light made it so.


Scene just across the road from the first rest stop, near the Santa Maria River, 29 miles in.


First rider of the day parks his bike at the first rest stop.


Second rider of the day.


Third rider of the day. Too bad I don’t remember any of these guys names.


My friends Court and Scott from the Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club. At the start line earlier that morning, I was telling somebody that I fully expected my friends to wimp out and not show up for the ride – only to have them come up to me immediately after I had spoken. Ha!


The first rest stop gets busy for a while. The first 29 miles featured a lot of downhill, so none of the riders seemed all that desperate for food and water.


A group leaves the first rest stop. Another five miles or so, and the climbing fun begins.


Riders tackle the first hill, on Hwy 97, on the way towards Bagdad, AZ.


While the first 34 miles are on busy US 93, the road to the second rest stop features wide open desert with little traffic, basically in the middle of nowhere.


Brian and April come in to the second rest stop, 54 miles in, at the junction to Bagdad. Only the double metric century riders would continue on and climb the hill to Bagdad.


Looking west from the second rest stop.


This stretch of road features many rollers, with the elevation trending ever upward. The elevation at this point is 3,400 feet. The high point for the day would be in Wilhoit, at 5,000 feet, 97 miles in. Yarnell Pass is almost this high as well.


Riders heading south and east, on the way to the big climb of the day  — a ten mile slog topping out near the “town” of Hillside. Apparently, this climb seems to go on forever for the cyclists. Hmmm, it didn’t seem so bad in the truck. Ha!


Is that … snow? Yesirree! It got a bit chilly the night before, with elevations above 4,000 feet seeing early season snow. Looking east, about 75 miles in.


First rider into Rest Stop #4, near Kirkland Junction, 91 miles in. This rider was one of a handful that did the full 124 miles. Most opted to do the 104 mile route.


Looking northeast from Rest Stop #4, towards the town of Wilhoit, about fifteen miles southwest of Prescott, AZ.


A mail box right next to Rest Stop #4. Say, our we in the Solvang area or something? Ha!


These riders don’t seem to have any sense of urgency to finish. Well, why continue on, when there is tasty tomato basil soup to partake of – that Robin must have spent hours and hours making the day before, slaving away at her stove. She even went so far as to seal her homemade concoction in cans, with labels to boot. Looked store-bought. The wonder of it! (Ha ha!)

One thing Robin did actually make were hot potato snacks, which were quite popular.


More riders coming in. By now (roughly 3:30 – 4 pm), the day is starting to turn chilly.


The owner of these sandals rode with said sandals the entire 104 miles – and no, these aren’t the kind of sandals with pedal clips. No sirree. Said owner had forgotten his bike shoes, and had to settle for riding in these, without clipping in. How he managed to finish a tough century this way, I have no idea. Simply amazing!


Looking down Yarnell Pass, with Congress, AZ in the distance – the finish. Many said that this stretch of road was down right cold! I know the riders we passed in the truck looked like frozen popsicles, hunkered over their handlebars.


Riders partake of the post-ride hamburgers.

Update: Make of those hamburgers lamented that I forgot to mention the fabulous ‘shrooms and onions toppings. Sorry about that!


Even though I did absolutely no riding, and really, didn’t do all that much during the day except keep others company and take photos, I was tired by the time we made it back to Phoenix. And I was sore the next day too. Geez, have I lost fitness or what!


Heart of Arizona — 2 Comments

  1. I enjoyed this post. The Heart of AZ sounds like a great ride. I just got back from doing the Tri-States Gran Fondo which stated and ended in Mesquite NV and had a great ride. I feel bad for you that you couldnt ride, but glad you were there to report this and take the pics. Good job.

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