Forgive my delay. Well I doubt there really is anything to forgive, we traveled yesterday and most of the world was watching a football game or doing something that involved not watching a football game. We were traveling most of the day, and got home late last night. Was happy to sleep in my own bed for the first time in week.
Anyway, back to Tucson!
A bright yellow thing showed up in the sky early Thursday morning. I vaguely remember slathering stuff on my skin last year to protect myself from it, so that was the ritual to start out the day.
We rode from TCH to a location called Gates Pass, which was basically a notch in a Mnt range south west of Tucson. It's a pretty regular place for cyclists to head as its the gateway to the Western part of Saguaro National forest.
The ride out had us go through a good part of Tucson proper, which wasn't a lot of fun, but it did allow us to get in miles in the sun. Spirits were high as the temperatures allowed us to shed the vests about 40 minutes into the ride. A quick stop to change a flat tire and we hit a section of rollers below the run up to Gates Pass.
The eastern approach to Gates Pass is about 2.5 to 3 miles long. It's a steady climb with a few places that kicks up into a grade that makes you get out of the seat. I knew we had a lot of climbing the next few days so I was content to ride at my pace up the hill and watch the ultra light climbers run away from me.
Owen was at the top taking some great photos of everyone, and even managed to catch me smiling as I hit the summit. I had about 3 seconds to zip my jersey and check out the view before the road made a 90 degree left turn and dropped like a stone down the other side. Beautiful flat pavement with long sweeping turns and full visibility greeted me with open arms and it wasn't long before I found myself catching up to a truck that had passed me about a minute before I hit the summit. The drive waved me around on a straight-away and I yelled out my thanks as I tucked out of his draft and rocketed passed him.
The downhill gently transitioned into a long set of rollers, and I wasn't really sure where we regrouping so I eased up. About 5 minutes later I hit the stop sign at the end of the road and the lead climbers were there.
We regrouped and rolled out to the national forest area and the promise of some great roads to ride on. We heard the story of the wolf man, a legendary figure that is often seen riding around the Gates Pass area (not to be confused with the Gray Wolf, another Tucson legendary rider), in nothing more than cut off jean shorts and a hairy back.
We hit another long section of power rollers and the group splits as the pace picks up, favoring the power riders. We play cat and mouse for a few miles before we make a turn on to "Mile Wide Road", a straight and an arrow road with a slight down hill. A few of us sat up and relaxed before getting countered by Gregg with Dave in tow.
Not being one to let a sprinter go unchallenged, I took off in pursuit with Jeremy, Paul, and Deanna chasing behind me. Just as we caught Gregg who had sat up the tell-tale "fssssssssssst" of a flat came from behind me. Everyone, except Dave, sat up to see who was the lucky victim. Paul drew the lucky straw this time and Jeremy stopped with him, as the rest of us soft pedaled along for a minute.
By now Dave was a good 200m up the road and ride along without the acknowledgement that anything happened behind him. "What do you think, 1-2 minute effort?" I asked Gregg. He pondered a moment and said "yeah, looks about right." He jumped on my wheel and Deanna on his and I set off after Dave.
About 30 seconds later a car passed us, which would have been fairly un-noteworthy in most instances. I glanced down at my Powertap to check our speed, 35mph and holding steady. Looking back up the road the car lock up all 4 wheels and smoke pouring from the sides of the car.
"Holy Shit!" was all I could get out. I didn't see Dave. Gregg and I immediately started sprinting towards where we expected the worst. As we approached the rear of the car, we saw Dave picking himself and his bike up and limping to the side of the road. His entire side was ripped up from skidding across the ground, but he didn't look like he had gotten hit.
The lady in the car pulled to the side of the road, along with a City of Tucson truck that had been coming the other direction. Gregg immediately started checking on Dave while I talked with the motorists who had stopped at the scene. Cell phones came out and offers of help came from all the by standers.
"What happened?" I asked the lady in the car.
"He fell over in the middle of the road in front of me, he just lost control of his bike and crashed."
I thanked her for her attentiveness. She offered the use of her house, a half mile down the road. Owen arrived on scene and the rest of the riders caught up. Dave stiffly walked over to the bed of the truck and sat down. It was a bit of a surreal scene. From best we could piece together from Dave and the guys in the truck, Dave tried to look behind him over his left shoulder, turned his bars sharply and lost control of his bike and crashed.
The sheer luck of the situation was not lost on most of us, but apparently it was on Dave.
Owen took Dave and Deanna to the local hospital while the rest of us finished the ride, our spirits fairly subdued.
We finished our loop and made our way to the western climb up Gates Pass. The descent down the other side was long and fun and the rollers heading home were mostly down hill. Gregg and I took large pulls at the front of the line into the winds with the remainder of the group sitting safely in behind us. Russell yelled out "Big Meat at the front!"
Gregg had a new nickname. We christened it with bacon buffalo burgers that night at the house. Tina arrived at the house, and Dave returned to the house later that evening, battered, bruised, but remarkable in good condition for what had happened or could have potentially happened. The day ended on a happy note, and Lemons were in our future.