Four in the morning is way too early to get up, UNLESS you have a plane to catch headed for Arizona! That's where we were going for the IMBA Trail Advocacy Summit Meeting. Very thoughtful of them to schedule it in Arizona in mid January! No complaints here! We took the tandem with us. With the wheels off, it fit nicely into an airlline box attached to a homemade stand Brian made to support it on the dropouts. Once we checked our luggage at the airport, we weren't going anywhere until we saw them take the box to the storage area. It only took two reminders for them to finally come and get it only moments before we were to board our plane. We also felt better when we actually saw them load it on the plane.
The plane was a two engine turbo prop to Cleveland which held all of 25 passengers. Once we made the change in Cleveland, we were on a real plane for the 4 hour trip to Phoenix. Brian had been up since 10 am the day before and planned on sleeping on the plane. Not to be. First there was breakfast (bagel, juice and a VERY cold banana!) Later they brought around beverages. After a lot of cloud cover across the midwest (nothing exciting to see there anyway) we finally could catch glimpses of the Rockies in the distance with the sun shining on the snow covered tops.. Absolutely fantastic! Wish we had taken some pictures, but we were too busy staring at them!
We had a rental van waiting for us at Phoenix which we took the seats out of to carry the bike. This turned out to be a very wise move for more than a few reasons. IMBA had told us they would shuttle us to and from the airport, but it turned out they were having problems transporting 130 folks with their bikes. We were to pick up Jeff Benz from WNYMBA (Buffalo) and then head for the Biosphere II. Phoenix airport is slightly larger than Rochester (smile). We came in on terminal 4 and Jeff was landing at terminal 2. After two loops of the airport we finally found it. I went inside to track down Jeff while Brian continued to circle the airport til we came out. I saw him go around at least 4 times before Jeff finally got his luggage and bike. When the IMBA representative saw our van with extra space, we were volunteered to transport 5 bikes to the Biosphere! Once everyone got their bikes unpacked, we realized we had been carrying very valuable merchandise with us and could have gotten a great price along the way had we wanted to lighten our load! These people were serious and their equipment reflected it.
At the biosphere, we were each handed a bag of "goodies" along with our ID tags and a three ring binder complete with all the program notes and information for the weekend. One look in the bag revealed a 1996 mountain bike calendar from Velonews, 4 energy bars from Clif, a ball cap, notecards, magnets, Chums eyeglass strap, 2 tee shirts, a waterbottle, a chain repair kit and a pair of Gore deraillaur cables. VERY NICE! No skimping here!
It was later than we wanted it to be when we got there so the first order of business was to get the bike together so we could get some riding in. No problems here until Brian tightened down the quick release on his seatpost, then SNAP! Was this an omen? A borrowed one taken off one of the rental bikes would work for now. At least we could get the bike adjusted and ready to go for tomorrow's ride. He managed to get our broken one to work when we got back from our 2 mile ride just as it was getting dark. Looking at the itinerary for the next few days, there was barely enough time to ride yet alone any extra time to mess with repairs.
Thursday night was time to get acquainted and meet all the big names in bicycling, and there were plenty of munchies and beer to go along. The beer appropriately, was called Fat Tire Beer and had an old fat tire bike on the label. We just had to bring the bottle back home as a souvenir (empty of course). By now Brian had been up for over 36 hours including the 2 hour time change, so it was time to find out how to get to the Bed and Breakfast we were staying at. It was a cute little house with a lot of Mexican flavour which had a wrought iron gate to the courtyard with four rooms and the main house surrounding it. We were the last ones to get there and all the rooms were taken, so by default we got the main house. No complaints here.... we could even let Jeff move in for the weekend instead of having to stay at the YMCA camp which was down the dirt road at the top of the hill with no towels. Just about every road is dirt except the main ones.
We weren't allowed to ride off road on the Biosphere II property, so for Friday afternoon's ride the security guard took us down a dirt road and opened a gate for us to get out where we took off on old cow trails. Not so old really, we did ride by a few cows. About half way into a 5 mile ride, we locked up our freewheel climbing a hill. Once the sun starts to set behind the mountains it gets cold and dark in a hurry. No time to walk back, we would have to pedal all the way back. No coasting! Despite our freewheel mishap, we were spared one of the many flats some folks had from all the thorns around. Some folks had as many as four flats on one ride!
Talk about disappointed! The only way we would ride Saturday was if I took the van into Tucson in the morning and hope a bike shop could fix it. I drive a small car and was not looking forward to driving a van 40 miles one way into a strange city to go to a bike shop and have something replaced that I didn't know anything about. I ride, Brian does the bike maintance. I was not a happy camper! But there was no choice (I also missed some good discussions that morning on land conflicts...oh well) so off I went. It only took two shops to find the appropriate part and I was on my way back to the conference just in time for lunch such as it was. The food was not that great, but we didn't ride that much so it was no big deal. No one went away hungry.
Saturday night dinner was time for awards and door prizes. The only complaint here was that we weren't one of the winners! They gave away a lot of nice stuff! Four pair of Sun rims, tons of T-shirts and jerseys, helmets, boxes of waterbottles (a whole box) from Giro, more Gore deraillaur cables, etc, etc, etc, plus two lucky people left with fully suspended bikes from Trek and Specailized! Yup, I think they are our friends.
Southern Arizona was experiencing some record breaking temperatures with highs in the 80's. No complaints here! Trying to shuttle 130 bikers with their bikes to a trail head about 12 miles away was interesting to say the least.... glad we had the van! Today's ride took us on part of the newly developed but not yet completed 750 mile Arizona Trail. Pretty cool stuff! Still no complaints, although we had several battles with the cactus (cactii??.. ) and they won! Now it's time to complain! That stuff hurts and its all over the place! We had a tough time manuvering through it on the tight turns of the single track. The front of the bike made it, but the back end got snagged. Next time we'll take single bikes and long socks. (or motorcycle leathers...BCM) Actually, the sand was almost more of a problem.
The conference ended Sunday at lunch, then it was time to ride. Most folks had already packed up and were headed out, but a few of us were shuttled toward Tucson where we would start the ride at the home of our leader who was a professor of archaeology at the University of Arizona at Tucson and lived at the base of the Catalina Mountains. He pointed out all kinds of neat stuff along the trail. More cactus and a lot of dust. I loved Arizona, but was getting tired of eating dust and pulling out cactus needles. At one point Brian had three different cactus needles in him at one time. If you lived here for any length of time, you have a real incentive to improve your bike handling skills and the sooner the better!
We had just spent four days at the Biosphere and had yet to tour it! Time was running out, but we did have our priorities! When we found out you can't go inside, but only look through the windows, we decided a self guided tour would work. We got back too late for a guided tour anyway. The windows revealed an abundance of growth of plants and trees. I guess they like it in there. Even though the scientists are no longer locked inside, they are still using the Biosphere for experiments for the next 100 years. As darkness arrived, we started packing up the bike for the trip back to Phoenix. The interstate speed limit in Arizona is 75 mph and it was still a 2 hour drive. Our flight left in the morning (still not sure why we just didn't take another day off), but Jeff had to leave at midnight. These days of up at 6am and to bed at midnight were taking a toll, tonight would be no different.
Although we hated to leave, we got some more great views of the Rockies, even though our return trip was a bit further south as we headed for Newark NJ. Another "puddlejumper" to Rochester, and an hour left til we landed. Leaving Arizona was made easier for us when we came across the Finger Lakes at sunset and could make out all the Lakes and cities, such as Ithaca, Watkins Glen, Geneva etc. The east branch of Keuka lake is frozen over, but the west branch isn't (for those who are interested). We also spotted Bristol Mountain lit up as well as Ski Valley Ski Resort. By the time we landed it was dark, so there was a great view of the city lights. All too soon the weekend was gone.... maybe now we can catch up on that much needed sleep.