Saturday – Lemmon Pie

Our last day. How did that happen? Although my legs were totally cooked, there was no question that if there was an opportunity to ride, I would. I didn’t really think that ride would entail a 6,000 foot climb up Mount Lemmon.

After a lot of discussion, Brian and Michelle decided they didn’t want to ride today. Brian has been braving a leg injury all week and has been, for the most part, pedalling with one leg. But if anyone is tough, Brian is. He tells me stories of doing PBP that make me know I could never be that tough. Scott has also been suffering from a flu bug of some sort that have now taken full hold and left him bedridden for the entire day. We are all worried about him and thankful he has been able to ride the week before this knocked him down. Brother Al’s knee has improved, but still not 100%, so he is being cautious with it, and is open to a short easy ride.

Ben and I want to climb Mount Lemmon. Or at least I think I do. I am not a good climber and my legs are as cooked as a chicken carcass that’s been boiling for three days.

We all decide to ride together to a restaurant for breakfast (with the exception of Scott who is sick in bed). There is nothing near our hotel, so we ride out 20 miles to a breakfast spot on the way to the mountain. At this point, my and Ben’s compromise plan is to ride halfway up the mountain then head back to the bike shop to return my rented bike and be back at the hotel well in time for dinner and cocktails.

But somehow over breakfast I am convinced to go all the way to the top. Michelle offers some very compelling arguments and I cannot refuse. So it’s settled. Ben and I will climb a mountain today.

The climb itself is 27 miles at about a 6% grade. So not crazy steep, but it seems to go on forever. We decided that we will both climb at our own speed and Ben will wait for me at the top. There are some incredible views, and I did my best to look up from the white line I follow on the side of the road every so often to enjoy them.

It takes me just under 3 hours to make it to the top – a ski hill where there is still snow on the ground. It was hard work – a good sustained aerobic effort with some harder efforts here and there.

Ben rolled down to meet me about 4 or so miles from the top and we took the road to the ski hill together, which was good because it is probably the hardest part of the climb. I’m sure I would have stopped to rest if it wasn’t for Ben being there. He was also kind enough to point out I still had one gear left as I was starting to really suffer towards the end. I was thrilled (and near dead) when we made it to the top. What an accomplishment!

We celebrate a couple of miles back down at the resort town of Summerhaven with a cookie as big as our heads and a few minutes of relaxation in the cool mountain air and the sunshine.

The restaurant has a very strict policy regarding children.

As with all big climbs, what goes up must come down. The descent takes about 30 minutes and is better than any ride at the fair you will ever have. When you hit that kind of speed on a winding mountain road, you have to use good technique, relax, and trust the road, yourself and your equipment. And you cannot think of what would happen if you crashed. You just can’t.

It was hot back at the bottom and we hightailed it back to the bikeshop to get there before it closed at 5:30. We’ve been riding since about 8am. Ben left me at the shop and biked back to the hotel while I waited for a taxi, entertained by the hipster kids doing tricks on their fixies in the parking lot.

After waiting an agonizing hour for a taxi (apparently the taxi that was originally called decided to pick up someone else) I made it back to the hotel. Thea and Didier, a couple we met on last years’ tour were there to meet us for dinner. They are doing next week’s tour, leaving in the morning. Didier and I have something other than riding in common – crashing. He has had a couple of very expensive crashes this year, and wore this special t-shirt just for me.

In case you can’t make out the writing because I took such a crappy picture, here is a better look:

Brian recognized our efforts at dinner by treating Ben and I to an order of a very special dish, prepared just for us.

It’s been a long and hard week. I’ve cycled 610 miles (981 km) in 8 days and enjoyed every single minute of it.

Thanks for reading!