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Wheels on the bike go round and round 18: Climbing to Nirvana
by Mike Jennett
2009-07-10 09:20:03
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From Wickinburg to Flagstaff, the scrub desert changed into an endless 3-day climb through lush vegetation and sheer rock faces, standing on the pedals and wishing for a smaller granny gear.

It is impossible to judge the amount of climbing simply from the elevation figures, which ranged from 5,000 to over 7,000 and varied up and down – only a day or two earlier, we’d been at sea level. Let’s just call it leg worthy.

True, there were the odd respites – like a 20-mile winding rise and falls on the way to Prescott that reminded me what cycling was all about – but mostly it was up. Up was the word of the day; the word of three days.

What goes up must come down – don’t tell NASA that – and the long steep descent from the summit of Mingus Mountain was our reward for the torture of climbing it. Not everyone felt that way. Nancy and Hank admitted fear of uncontrollably accelerating to warp speed, so rode in the van.

44 mph is the fastest I have ever traveled on a bike and that happened yesterday on the penultimate descent into Cottonwood. Bicycles may well be built to go at 44 mph as the lone cyclist who sped past me so fast he caused a Doppler color shift would agree, but I personally am not made to go 44 mph on a bike.

It’s shitingly terrifying to know that any road aberration – and there were plenty of rough spots – can send you somersaulting, end over bone-crunching end, until coming to a halt in a mass of shattered helmet, blood and internal organs. Your remains will then be crushed by a mobile home the size of the Staten Island ferry, driven by a hat-wearing fat tourist from Iowa.

At least an extra reward lay in store three-quarters of the way down in the form of the town of Jerome. Jerome was once famous as a gold mining community, but that was a long time ago and now it’s only famous for being famous – and has tee-shirts to prove it.

Reaching our first rest day in Flagstaff required the longest and most hellish climb of the entire week, composed – in latter stages – of a series of switchbacks from which it was possible to see how much torment lay ahead. It’s hard to appreciate the landscape or the beauty of the red rocks of Sedona when it’s all you can do to stay upright as you wheeze and stare at the asphalt directly in front of the wheel.

I would not be able to adequately describe the anguish I suffered on those switchbacks without making you cry. Try to imagine how you would feel if someone took a cricket bat to your thighs repeatedly until you could no longer walk and then set you on fire.

What I will say – boast, even – is that after the SAG stop at the summit, I pedaled the remaining 12 miles into Flagstaff under my own steam. No van had felt my bottom all day.

I have reached Nirvana.

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com     

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