Nine biking days in. After a rest day at home, we climbed to Tonto Basin, near Roosevelt Lake, a beautiful but very tough ride on a noisy road. That is the second time I have climbed from the valley by my house to Tonto Basin. Even after that success as we headed to Globe, Arizona we came up on the longest hill of the day (six miles long at about 6% grade) and I looked up and thought, “NO WAY.”
At that exact moment, our guide happened to pull up next to us and I said it out loud. She smiled and laughed said it was good preparation for the hills in New Mexico and the hill country of Texas. Gotta love the enthusiasm!
I put my ball cap under my helmet so I would focus right in front of me and I pushed the pedals around until I got to the top. I climbed it. And then on a cold and windy day, there was a sweet downhill for miles and miles. And then more uphill. So our days go. Up and then down. Or Up and Up. Or some just down.
Other routines are falling into place too. Each morning we’re up for coffee and breakfast. If the hotel doesn’t offer a full breakfast, our guide/chef supplements or makes breakfast for us. By the time we get to breakfast, we’ve already filled our water bottles, dressed for the biking day (taking into account the weather) and then we check bikes, add air to our tubes, get some snacks for our pockets and before we start riding we check out with the SAG for the day.
We bike between 40 and 88 miles a day (our longest so far) and each 20 or so miles we have a SAG stop. We check in and out with one of the four SAG drivers (a rider who has chosen to be a support 1 of 4 days). We fill our water bottles, sneak off for a potty break in a quiet spot, chat with others about the view or the ride or the climb. And we have more snacks! Yesterday one snack was some wonderful blood oranges from Arizona. There are always bananas, Oreos, dried fruit, nuts and a variety of chips.
And repeat for each twenty miles (as long as the SAG is there -sometimes things happen and we end up going further). We ride until we reach our hotel for the night in a town up the road. We check in, take our bikes to our rooms, grab our luggage, head in for showers, laundry, and a chat with your roommate for that night. We get assigned a different roommate each night so we will have spent time with all 19 other women on the trip. Then we start getting prepared for the next day. I check my tires, wash out water bottles, charge my lights and Garmin, organize my shorts, jersey gloves and what jacket, etc. I will wear for the next day. Most morning or nights some of us stretch either together or in our rooms. Have to keep everything working.
Then either before or after dinner, our guide has a MAP meeting. We review the route and roads for the next day and our guide gives us a little bit of history of the town or area we are going through. Usually this is done outside by the van. Then we sit in outdoor chairs in a circle and have dinner by our delightful chef who has been a star at accommodating everyone’s unique dietary needs and preferences (vegetarian, no dairy, and regular) all while cooking amazing food. A couple of nights to giver her a break or because the schedule worked out better we have gone out to dinner.
Then back to our rooms, exhausted, by 8 p.m. A chat home and up again the next day to repeat.
The routine is comforting. And some days are easier or harder than others. The mileage doesn’t dictate it. I had a hard 54 from Salome to Wickenburg and an easy 75 from Wickenburg to Tempe Town Lake. Each day is physically challenging, draining. I’m reminded of an old cycling quote, “it doesn’t get easier, you just go faster.” Well, I’m not faster. I’m stronger each day and that will have to do.