Today’s blog was supposed to be about the Yarnell Grade ascent and about how I can do things, even if they are hard, as long as I know they have an end. Yarnell Grade is a beautiful road carved into the side of a mountain that takes one between a flat desert valley containing the town of Congress and the high desert that includes the much larger and quaint mountain town of Prescott.
The climb was glorious. In my granny gear, it was never hard. I took my time and soaked in the scenery. It was seven miles long, not as steep as advertised, and had a distinct beginning and end. I was at the top before 8 am. I took a video and will post it on YouTube as soon as I can.
Just after the summit, in the town of Yarnell, we met Pete, the Rock Artist, from Extreme Makeover. He gave me a good luck geode for my ride.
In the valley between Yarnell and Prescott, there was a town called Skull Valley, so named by white settlers who found heaps of skulls from long ago skirmishes.Nina, the cashier at Skull Valley Gas, told us there was rain up in Prescott. I said I was okay with rain but not lightning. She said there was always lightning when there was rain.
Near the end of the day’s ride was a long climb up to the rim of mountain surrounding Prescott. It was harder than Yarnell Grade because it was near the end of the riding day, was fuzzy with ups and downs, and some of the uphills were steeper than advertised. As we approached Prescott, there was a delicious descent into town and the sky confirmed Nina’s weather information.
Upon arrival in Prescott, we loaded the bike onto the bike rack, then an intense but brief thunderstorm let loose. We drove the bike in the rain to the Bikesmith Cyclery where I had called the day before. That’s when today’s other story began. I asked Mike, the mechanic, to check my chain and do a safety check on the bike. Within minutes, he suggested I do some proactive work, changing not only the chain but the cassette, a component that goes on the rear wheel and has lots of gear rings on it. He did all that, then went to test it.
Word of my mission had gotten around the shop and a client named Alex got quite excited about it. He is an aficionado of Guinness World Records and has collected their books since he was a young kid. He had proposed a record attempt to Guinness of biking from Mexico to Alaska, entirely self-supported, (that is, no sag support like I have with Susie), with an ascent on foot of Mount Denali, followed by a return by bike — a journey of 9000 miles. His proposal was turned down, yet my measly 3000 mile journey was accepted. I urged him to tweak his proposal and try again.
While I was learning all this from Alex, Mike returned and said he had terrible news. My middle front ring would not work with the new chain and rear cassette. He did not have a middle ring in his inventory. That’s when everyone in the shop scrambled to find one, thinking of every bike shop within two hours of Prescott. Phone call after phone call brought nothing but bad news. Finally, a phone call to a shop in Scottsdale, two hours away, brought forth a yes. The brother of one of the guys in the shop was driving from Scottsdale this afternoon and could pick up the ring and take it to the store. Even with that incredibly friendly gesture for a total stranger, the ring would not arrive for many hours and the shop would be closed by the time it arrived. That’s when Mike pulled the rabbit out of his hat. He said he’d come back to the shop and install the ring no matter how late it arrived and he’d call me when my bike was ready. It took a village full of generosity and ingenuity to solve the problem. If all goes according to this amazing plan, I will be able to resume my ride on schedule tomorrow morning.
Start location: Congress AZ
End location: Prescott AZ
Distance: 50.5 miles
Cumulative distance: 453.1 miles
Elevation gain: 4426 feet
Strava track: https://www.strava.com/activities/698176044/overview