I got a bit ambitious with this months century ride. I decided that I would drive over and up to the White Mountains of Arizona to a town named Heber. From Heber, I would take Hwy 260 to Show Low, then Hwys 60 and 61 to Concho, then some road (I never saw a name or number for it) to Snowflake, and finally, Hwy 277 back to Heber. The distances between these towns are between 30-36 miles for a total of about 130 miles.
My alarm woke me up at 4:50 a.m. Saturday morning July 10. After eating breakfast and getting everything ready and loaded, I started the long drive at 5:40. Once I got past Fountain Hills and onto the Beeline Hwy, the drive was rather nice, especially past Payson in the Sitgreaves Natl. Forest. I saw two elk along the road, a cow and a calf. Unfortunately, they were both dead, victims of the automobile.
At 8:30 I arrived in Heber and parked at a Circle K (convenience store) near the Hwys 260/277 junction. Here I changed into my cycling clothes, applied sunscreen and crammed my jersey pockets with 3 bananas, 3 powerbars, a water bottle, my wallet and a map. Just before 9:00, a little over 4 hours since I awoke, I was finally on my bike heading towards Show Low.
The ride to Show Low was really nice. The terrain was undulating and the wind was more at my back than anything else. I'm sure I was loosing more altitude than I was gaining too, which caused a rather fast pace despite the fact that I was just cruising and not pushing it much at all. The road was mostly through Ponderosa Pine forests with a few nice views of the surrounding country every time I topped a hill. I also passed through some meadows filled with horses grazing and, well, just horsing around.
After about 15 miles, there was a fresh layer of pavement on the road without any markings. The surface was great. At mile 18, I totally zoned out and rode right off the road. I don't know if it was a lack of markings on the road, or just an omen of things to come. At any rate, I was rather surprised that I would do such a thing. I don't remember ever doing that before. Being a bit embarrassed, I dismounted and nonchalantly took a couple of sips of water while a couple of cars went by before continuing on. At mile 20, (thankfully?) the fresh pavement ended.
When I reached Show Low I decided to take a quick break since I had already gone through half of my three bottles of water. A local Circle K seemed a good place to stop. There, besides filling my bottles, I also drank a bottle, then continued on towards Concho.
Hwy 60 out of Show Low was rather bumpy and noisy. I think the traffic was less than that between Heber and Show Low (which wasn't much) but it sure seemed to be a lot louder. The road was also quite bumpy and in a state of disrepair (and at places, repair). The scenery also wasn't quite as nice. The Ponderosa forests had given way to scrub Cedar. As on the way to Show Low, I continued to have a tailwind and the terrain continued to be rolling with an emphasis on down. After a few miles, the pavement wasn't quite as bad and I decided to eat a banana. I was feeling pretty good and enjoying the ride and wanted to keep it that way.
About ten miles out of Show Low, I turned onto Hwy 61 and immediately started climbing the longest hill of the day. It was probably a bit over a mile long and not that steep, somewhere around five or six percent. After the climb, the terrain was like before, a lot of rolling hills with a lot more down than up. I relaxed on the bike for awhile and ate one of the powerbars. It was nice to start getting some weight out of my pockets.
From this section all the way to Concho, I felt really good and kept my speed as best I could on the up hills and was cruising right along at 20-28 mph. There was some interesting views of the rolling hills. Periodically I would pass some small lakes which probably would be dry during normal (rain wise) years. What few homes I would pass, always seemed to be having a yard sale. I have no idea who their customers would be since there was almost no traffic at all - very lonely.
Just before Concho, I passed through a small town called Concho Valley. There wasn't much there. A few homes and some small shops, that's all. I assumed, since it wasn't on the map, that Concho would be a bit larger so I continued for the couple of miles from Concho Valley to Concho. Boy was I wrong. There were a few stores in Concho, None of which had been in business for at least a few years. There were a few homes too, but not nearly as many as in Concho Valley.
There was a man burning some spilt oil or something, so I introduced myself and asked him if he had any drinking water I could have. He took two of my bottles and went in his home to fill them up. While he was doing that, I looked over my surroundings. The house was small with a quaint porch along the front of it. There was a tombstone leaned up against the house for a man that served in WWII and who died just this last March. I assume he was the father of the man getting the water. Next to the house was an old shed/garage that had quite a number of license plates from all over the country hung on its walls. When the man returned, we talked for a minute or two, then I thanked him and was on my way.
When I left Concho, I had been on the road for 3:20 hours and had ridden 68 miles. I was pleased with the time I was making, a bit over a 20 mph average including about ten or fifteen minutes worth of stops. I would have liked to rest a bit more in Concho and get more to drink and eat some cookies. Unfortunately I had to make do with the water I had and continue.
From Concho, I turned into the wind and started heading towards Snowflake. The terrain from Concho to Snowflake was pretty desolate. A lot of grass and scrub and not much of anything else. Again it was rolling but this time with the emphasis on up.
I ate another banana soon after leaving Concho. A few miles later I started to eat my second powerbar. While eating the powerbar I started to feel the miles in my legs and started feeling a bit thirsty. Of course, powerbars tend to need a lot of water to wash down, but I could tell that I was starting to get a bit dehydrated. I managed to eat about 3/4ths of the powerbar but couldn't manage anymore so I ate my last banana instead. Bananas are nice but three in a couple of hours is a bit much. I wished for some cookies and a nice cold bottle of water or something. At this point, I was about half way to Snowflake and going into survival mode. I already had drank half my water and could have finished the rest right then. I decided to ration what I had so as not to run out too far from Snowflake. I was able to keep things going steady, albeit not that fast the rest of the leg. Finally after 5:15 hours and 97 miles, I rolled into Snowflake.
Once in Snowflake, it didn't take me long to find a Circle K. I was really shaky at that time. I bought a quart of gatorade, some cookies and a gallon of water. I sat outside the store and drank all the gatorade and ate the cookies. It was nice to be able to sit there and rest for awhile. I filled my bottles with the water and drank as much of what was left as I could. My stomach was pretty full at that time.
After twenty minutes, I started the last leg back to Heber, about 32 miles. I knew my condition was fragile but figured the food I had had before and all the fluid I had just drank would kick in on the way. I decided to ride easy, about 14 or 15 mph or so and not push it at all on the up hill sections.
Again, the terrain back to Heber was a lot like what I had been seeing ever since I left Show Low. It was a lot of grass and scrub with some scrub cedar thrown in too. It did become predominately cedar as I went though, since I was gaining altitude the whole way and it would end back in the pines.
I did alright for about ten miles out of Snowflake, then my body started to fail miserably. I never was able to drink much at any one time, my stomach seemed bloated, though I was, it seemed, constantly sipping on a bottle. It seemed a major effort to keep my speed above eleven or twelve mph and I was easily out of breath. After fourteen miles, I pulled off the road and rested for five minutes to catch my breath. Three miles later, at 114 miles and about seven hours even, I flagged a pickup down and hitched a ride for the last fifteen miles to Heber.
I would have liked to finish the whole ride, however I think I made the right choice to pack it in when I did. At the rate I was going, that last fifteen miles would have taken well over an hour to finish and I was in pretty sorry shape.
After the fifteen minute drive back to my truck, cleaning up and changing into street clothes, and being able to drink some without any exursion, I started to feel fairly good again. With a coke in my hand, I started the drive back home. I stopped in Payson and called my wife to let her know when I'd be back, then I ate dinner at BurgerKing. Fries with a bit of extra salt and the hamburger really hit the spot.
The drive home went really well. I felt relaxed yet didn't have any problems staying alert. I stopped a couple of times to stretch and filled the tank up close to home. I finally arrived home just past eight in the evening, close to fourteen and one half hours after I left.
Copyright © 1993 Russell L. Corfman. All rights reserved.