Sunday dawned with sunshine and wind; and I called Brad to pre-ride the Whiskey 50 course in Prescott. We planned to ride Saturday, but I was crushed by illness that left me nauseous or sleeping the whole day. Wasn’t sure how an entire day of not eating would work for me on Sunday. Oh, OK, I had some chicken soup Saturday night. Hardly the carbo-loading I usually do.
Thankfully, we drove the first major climb of the Whiskey 50, up and up and out of downtown Prescott on paved roads that get steeper and steeper including Copper Basin Road. Prescottonian Ann-Marie at the wheel of the Land Rover (so expeditious we were!) provided insights into neighborhood politics of Prescott on our course tour. I wondered if my granny gear was granny enough for this incline. Number one race fan Lisa was along for the ride—she and Ann-Marie were our rescue team in case I faltered after only a few miles.
At last, we reached the parking lot where the single track starts and stepped out into the chilly ponderosa pine forest. Brad bravely rode his single speed, prepared to muscle up the mountain trails if necessary.
We hit the single track along Aspen Creek. And we crossed the creek: splash! “Oooh, that’s cold,” said Brad, riding through the 3-foot wide creek. I really didn’t think about water crossings, after riding the dusty trails of southern Arizona this spring. We didn’t stay chilly for long because the trail steadily gained elevation. Saw a patch or two of snow and was happy to be riding in the shade instead of usual blazing sun.
Water bars challenged me: I made it over a few, then couldn’t maintain momentum on ever upward-sloping trail. Another mountain biker passed us chanting something I didn’t understand, but later Brad revealed was “get some, get some, get some!” Was it self-affirmation or encouragement for Brad? We didn’t know. I had to walk quite a bit and felt fairly weak, probably due to not eating the day before.
A little ridge-top riding with spectacular views west, south and east and mountains everywhere beneath the brilliant blue. Uh-oh. Water bars on the descent. I had to stop midway down a water bar and Brad sort of tumbled into me. But it was one of those slow motion mix-ups and no one was hurt. Soon after, I decided to let Brad lead on the descents, being more fearless than I.
We hit some fun double track and descended into prickly pear elevation. We passed a sweet smelling lilac bush and saw lots of other purple flowers. We arrived at the bottom of another jeep road climb, this is where I got hot. No more cool mountain air. My geared bike was a lifesaver as we rode a long time back up to Copper Basin Road. I waited for Brad at the intersection.
We snacked, we drank, we chatted with another Whiskey 50 pre-rider who of course, had met Brad before. We didn’t turn left toward Skull Valley (a nine-mile descent, and climb back up the same road).
Instead, we turned right to continue climbing toward Sierra Prieta overlook where we planned to meet Ann-Marie and Lisa. Brad powered ahead, standing on his single speed. Pop. His powerful quads broke his chain. He had a chain tool and set to fixing it in the shade. I took some pictures out toward Skull Valley.
A ’67 Chevy truck rumbled by downhill, clunking in a broken-sounding way. It stopped. The driver got out and crawled under his truck to assess. I drank some water. Brad realized that his repaired chain was now too short to fit. The truck driver backed up and asked us if we needed help and explained: “my u-bolt is just about shot so I’m going back to the pass and try to coast into town.”
“I’ll go ahead and ride up the hill,” I said, not wanting to be in a broken truck. “But you can get a ride, Brad.” I’m helpful that way. We had tried to call our rescue team, but cell phone coverage was spotty.
I took off, and actually felt pretty strong on the climb. Hey! I’m not out of breath from the altitude! Small joys. The truck didn’t catch me for another mile or so. Brad got out and we headed up the last .7 miles to the overlook. Brad rode the descents and ran up the climbs with his bike, clearly practicing for cyclocross season.
At last, we reached our expedition team and were rewarded with hugs and Luna bars. We drove the dirt roads back to Prescott and saw a bit of the single track off in the woods.
Great to ride even a short section of the course and understand the magnitude of the climbing. Seemed like I recovered from wicked Saturday bug, and I felt strong at the end of the ride.
Here's the course map. We rode from Trail 393 south, Fire Road 53 North, Copper Basin Road, to Sierra Prieta overlook.
Back in Tucson, Mt. Lemmon Highway will be my training grounds for April. Getting to elevation on my road or mountain bike and doing hill repeats. Climbing the east side of Molino Pass on the Arizona Trail is another training ride that should get me ready for the Whiskey 50.