Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rosemont AZT Trailhead to I-10

Although I was busy inspecting the bike for damage and brushing the twigs and leaves of a demolished packrat midden off my clothes, I still had time to ask myself, "Well, how did I get here?" The immediate answer was by blowing a switchback turn at the bottom of a steep downhill. The deeper cause was the usual one: hubris.

Friday I felt the first stirrings of a cold. Doused it with store-brand zinc remedy, not even bothering with a namebrand placebo. Saturday morning I felt kinda punk, but decided that I'd get in one good ride before the cold got its hooks all the way in. The plan was to have Amy drop me off at the Rosemont rest stop on Highway 83, then rendezvous at the Rincon Valley Farmer's Market for lunch. The route included a relatively short section of unfamiliar trail, maybe 8 miles; after that it'd be the superfast, supersmooth stuff that I rode last week. Cake. The ride figured to be so easy that for an added flourish I'd take the singlespeed Rat.

After the drop, I rode up Rosemont Road to the cairn marking the trail and struck off north. My nose was a bit leaky, but I hawked and spat with abandon; Receive my life-giving phlegm, o grateful desert! The trail, newly made and neat as a fresh haircut, zigzagged through cattle country and dipped into draws. After a bit, though, the dips became deeper and steeper, and it was clear from the hoof-churned soil that cattle favored the trail, too. Traction became a problem. Tight turns, too. Some climbs were steep enough that I made better time by shouldering the bike and carrying it up. All the while, the clock ticked toward lunchtime.

Desperate to make up for my slow progress, I tried to bomb the stuff I could. The downhills that looked ideal for this strategy all seemed to be loose and sketchy, and terminated in a tight turn. It was one of these that got me. I had a moment of indecision at the crux and could not take my eyes off a scraggly mesquite by the side of the trail. The bike interpreted this to mean that the little tree was my intended destination and took me there.

Now I had a bent front-brake lever, multiple sidewall punctures in the front tire, and no conceivable chance of making my rendezvous. I made quick fixes and set off for a dirt road I'd seen last week that would get me out to the highway. Made it to 83 with just a couple of air stops for the tire, then beat it up the road to the I-10 exit, where I called Amy for roadside assistance. While I waited for her, I tried to take the last bit of bend out of the brake lever, and it snapped off in my hand.

I didn't know it at the time, but that snap! was the sound of the spell breaking and the curse lifting. We went to the Rincon Valley Farmer's Market, met a friend we hadn't seen for far too long, and wolfed tamales while trading wisecracks with the Tucson Tamales guy. Last fun I was to have before being pulled under by this stinking head cold.

The Rat is now repaired. I had some brake levers on hand, and ordered some teflon-coated cables to make the fix into a minor upgrade. Also scored some Drumstix, which I will never again be able to live without. Having brake rotors that are in perfect true is a basic human right.

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