And, even as the first couple of miles rolled by, all seemed well ...
... until Fish Creek Hill.
This is a shot of Fish Creek Hill. One lane, probably a 10% grade, all loose gravel. You can see how it was cut from the side of the cliff -- spectacular views, but not so much fun trying to descend the whole way with an outrigger!
The next 22 miles were pure hell. I was able to ascend faster than descend, and the road was washboard in so many places that I felt like my bike was about to completely hop out from under me. The funniest was the A-DOT road maintenance yard in the middle of this crappy, washed-out area! Here is a shot of Tortilla Lake, about 10 miles into it. 12 miles still to go!
There were some spectacular views, but I seriously thought I'd have to stop and change my chamois in a couple of spots. If you look close, you can even see snow on the mountain-top in the distance -- the closest I got was about 1,000 feet under the snow line over at Top of The World. The weekend before, though, there was snow below 4,000 feet!
I spent a couple of hours on the dirt road, fighting a strong headwind the whole way. By the time I got to the Roosevelt Dam, I was ready to be done! But I made it! Take that, you nasty road!
This is a view of the spectacular bridge that runs right next to the dam, on Route 188 from Globe to Payson. Beautiful views all around!
What to do? At this point, I was so demoralized that the trip back seemed an impossibility. At least I knew the route home from Globe -- and it couldn't be too hard to get to Globe, right?
So it was Route 188 to the rescue -- pavement at last!
But what a false sense of security! I was already several miles down the road, still fighting that damn headwind that had shifted to the southeast from the east, when I spied this ahead of me ... yes, I had to climb that to get to Globe!
Uphill, counting down the meters as I went. Into the headwind, 5 miles of suffering. This would have been an awesome descent, but I wasn't sadistic enough to turn around! Remember that 7% is the average for 5 miles -- let me tell you, this climb went well above 7% in several places -- I encountered easier climbs in the Alps a few years ago! Let's just say I've never stopped at the top of a hill, shaking from fatigue before ...
Thankfully, it was all downhill from there to Globe, so I got a good rest. At the junction with Route 60, I took a moment to document the 5 hours and 45 minutes of headwind I'd been fighting -- this flag is huge, and stands above a massive mine, and for it to be that unfurled, let me tell you, there was quite a breeze!
From there on out, it was only about 50 miles to home ... with three mountain passes to climb! Thankfully, I knew these climbs well, and know the area very well, so I knew there were a few good places to stop and refuel without having to carry extra water and food over the hills. Of course, one of the climbs is known as "Top of the World," and at 4,600 ft. is one of the highest passes in the area! But with a tailwind and cross-tailwind all the way home, I finished the last 50 miles in less than 2 hours, 45 minutes, even with the climbing! Superstition Mountain (pictured here) never looked so welcoming!
I think I'll do the trails tomorrow?