Sunday 6 August 2017

Arizona Trail 750

Arizona Trail 750  - April 2017

As we sit in the van in the Dolomites, with lightning flashing followed by booming thunder and hammering hailstones on the tin roof we drag ourselves to the laptop to finally have a go at writing about the Arizona trip.   As many of our journeys start from seeing something on the internet such as a blog, a video ....... then it will be no surprise to hear the Arizona trail journey began in the same way!   

Just like the Highland 550  we would like to keep it short and sweet so here is another go at an acrostic poem (ish) on the Arizona Trail.

A welcoming ride from friendly Sunspoke (Sierra Vista bikeshop) landed us at the Mexican border half an hour before the start, nerves and sweat trickled from our bodies as we embraced the journey that lay ahead.

Rollercoasting relentless singletrack flowed through the Canelo hills, Fi slumbered in a shaded ditch with a bar hovering upon her lips thinking, "Is this possible, 30 miles in and I'm feeling kaputt!" Rest, cool down, slowly, slowly will get us to Patagonia for refreshing bitter cold lemonade.

In the night boom, boom, woken by gunshots, is this a dream?  Riding as dawn broke led us past a party still booming from the night! Silently sneaking through the Kentucky campsite littered with bodies and bikes, we carried on towards Tucson for a real surprise, a bar not on the map gave us an extra meal which was a delight!

Zipping along on day 3 up, down, up, down, watch the cactus, watch the rocks, watch the snake, we finally approached the road to Mt Lemmon to a cheery applaud and a refreshing surprise.  Legs turned as we pushed on to Summerhaven, another surprise Jenny followed by water! Yes the spigot fairy had flicked it's magic wand!  Onwards and upwards we rode into town for FUDGE and CHIPS or CRISPS!

Oracle Ridge, what can we say, a fantastic descent anytime of the day (especially in the dark). Sleep hung upon our eyelids we slept below Apachy Peak.  No, no lets not bother going into Oracle we will soon make it to the next pitstop.  Oh what a mistake for Fi as her food disappeared left with hunger pains and listening to Paul secretly munching in his tent.  (Mistaking chips as crisps - don't do it.)

Nearly at the end for the 300ers a delightful descent down to Kelvin brought smiles to our faces. Yes this is what we came for singletrack, endless singletrack.  Undulating next to the Gila river, a few hours sleep, time to get up and follow the lights upwards and upwards the end was in sight. Hours past as we climbed in the intense heat, revitalised by the downhill into Picketpost and a deservedly earned bottle of  warm water.

Arriving at Queen Valley ready to eat a horse only to find the only place in town closed for the season!  Thank goodness for the service station, sat with Jenny we devoured a horse with tummies full we plodded on to more food in Apachy Junction in the form of  'Jack In the Box'  yum, yum.    As midnight approached we found a patch of flat ground on the outskirts of town zzzzzzzzzz.

Track and road brought us to Roosevelt, miles flew by, a mop of the brow, is that lights ahead of us? A restful night in Payson, a restock in Wallmark then on to Pine for a burger or two before the Mongollon Rim enticed our push a bike skills.  Separated for a while as dark crept in, Paul heard a noise, thought it was Fi but no a bear in the trees.  Eventually reunited at the mouse hut, a squeak, a nibble, a pitter patter of many feet, not much difference to the Travellers Rest!

Riding along decision to be made, to snow detour or not is the question to be.  A race we did not come to do but a journey through this place, brought us to the decision embrace, embrace.  We arrived in Flagstaff to Mackey- D's.  "Supersize me" is what we said please. They replied, "We don't do supersize." Fi's jaw hit the floor a Big Mac Meal followed by chicken nuggets will have to do.   Full for a bit, we carried onto the Snowbowl detour, maybe we should have taken this one!  Hour after hour, tree over tree, more snow than we've seen in Scotland this year we came to the end. Yippee don't listen to Paul, I am definitely taking the detour at the North Rim.

An early morning surprise in the form of a mountain lion for Paul's eyes only, gave us a boost to push on and on and on through the heat of the day to a swarm of tourists in the Canyon Village. Refuelled by pizza, more pizza and more pizza we found a quiet place to rest as the nerves raced in preparation for .....

In and out as quickly as that, it was done the Grand Canyon thank goodness for that.  (If only!)  At the top we learnt how to strap on our bikes, inspired by the views we plodded down to Phantom lodge for a deserved rest before Paul raced on reaching the top to a familiar, friendly face and a place for a well earned rest.  Fi slowly, slowly reached Angel campsite to be told, "Watch out for the drops, the scramble and you'll have to walk sideways at a narrow point!"  Nighttime awoke, nerves rose up and were spitted out as she met a corner and a traverse, "It can't be along there!"  A flick of the head, oh silly me there's the footpath; no scramble came or narrow ledge, at last she made it to the top of the Rim.
Lie-in would have been good but onwards to Jacobs Lake for a leisurely break.  How funny for the Brits who had come from the UK to end up together so close to the end!  "Oh it's like a day ride from here."  Laughs, falls and phenomenal singletrack  brought us to the red, rock of Utah for the final descent to the finish full of memories we'll never forget.  Thank you Arizona, it crossed all our minds if only we could carry on through Utah and on and on......  Not this time but maybe soon; cheese, biscuits and wine a real treat left by a fellow rider then a lift by a passing angel Misha brought us to the flashing lights and the end of a journey goodbye, goodbye.

NB  Angels appeared along the way, cheers amazing American angels who gave us support in many ways.

Monday 20 March 2017


The plan was set last year when Matt came to me and asked "Do you fancy a trip to Iceland?"  Due to being on the cards for awhile I couldn't refuse even when he told me it was going to be a winter visit. That just made it  more interesting to me. Training commenced with the fall of fresh snow.   
(Not that we had much this year, grumble, grumble)

The first trip out in the Lakes made us hope for better snow in Iceland.

A couple of days in Scotland and biking over the winter months in the Lakes made up our training.

Packed up and ready, here we come ICELAND! 
 The plan was to ride from Grindavik (SW) to Porshofn (NW) 460 miles through the highlands following F26.   As the trip got closer we started religiously checking the webcams and weather. It was starting to look a little like summer..........brill the conditions were looking grand for the adventure.  Ooops I spoke too, too soon as we arrived on the Monday the weather was looking a little, actually a lot like winter.   SNOW! SNOW! SNOW!   We didn't  have a clue about the lovely snowfall they had the day before we arrived.

From the BBC
Record breaking amounts of snow fell in the city of Reykjavik in Iceland last night and the pictures are amazing.
The snow in the capital peaked at 51cm, a record for snowfall in the month of February.
Only once in history has this been topped, when snowfall in the city reached 55cm in January 1937.
One night and all had changed but we kept optimistic.  Once we had collected our huge amount of luggage, we took the bus from the airport to the B&B the Blue House. During the journey we got chatting to the driver about what we had planned,  his laughs echoed through the bus as he remarked, " Maybe you should get measured up for some body bags!"  Some great advise.  

Let's stay positive, let's stay positive rang through my head whilst we built our bikes up and tested them out on a short road ride.  The snow was compacted and ride-able where cars had been, the fresh stuff was another matter.  That night in the warm, cosy B&B we discussed our options although there were loads of snow we decided to set off and play it by ear or by the depth of the snow.

When dawn arrived, we packed up, left the warmth and headed off on the bikes with 32kg of food...... tent......sleeping bags...... etc.  Our pockets burned as we left the outdoor shop after getting some gas and fuel.  Ouch!! 2 gas canisters and 2 litres of fuel £57.  

The wheels turned slowly under the weight of the bikes as we headed out of the city towards Krisuvik making camp in an old quarry.  Under the canvas, wrapped in our sleeping bags we started talking about changing to plan B due to the incredible amount of SNOW.  Luckily we didn't need to make this decision just yet as the two routes split later but already it was playing on our minds.  Conversation soon moved on to spotting the aurora borealis, the night was clear, windy but not two cold, a brief look and then back inside into my two sleeping bags  and time to melt the snow for tea.

The morning came when the sun shone brightly onto our frozen tent as we woke from a deep sleep.  Packed up, we headed towards Selfoss along the coastal road not hilly but the headwind made for a slow, arduous day which was rewarded with a stay in  a warm house with a hot tub.  I'd packed everything except the kitchen sink and my swim shorts.  Mental note add swim shorts to bikepacking holiday list.

The following day we decided to get a bit more (hopefully useful) advise.  We visited the local Mountain Rescue Team and they told us they had done plan A in Summer and it took them 12 days, remarking it was pretty tough in Summer due to the weather let alone in winter.  This lead our thoughts towards  plan B to follow the F35 north and up to the coast with a bus journey back.

Gear packed up, down jackets on, hands deep inside the pogies we pedalled off up to Faxi,  ready for some off road trails.  Both of us were slowly getting fed up of tarmac (fat bikes not built for roads).   That night we stayed on a campsite which wasn't open, falling asleep to the gush of the beautiful waterfall next to us.

Tourist time! The next morning  we got to do be real tourist as we biked past Geysir stopping and taking selfies then on to Gullfoss Falls.  Tourist time over, time to get off the beaten track.  Luckily local drivers had been along the first 10 miles or so making this section ride-able.  As we biked past a tin hut, thoughts of cover for the night slipped into our heads, should we stop and spend the night or carry on?  Decision made quickly, we would stop at the hut, dump some stuff and go for an afternoon ride across to a small hut marked on the map to experience riding in deep snow.   On the way  to the hut we hit a river (not frozen ) so we turned around and headed back to the tin shack.  A refreshing snack was needed, a frozen apple!   Big mistake, ten minutes later I was colder than ever and had to get into my sleeping bag to calm the shivers.  Lesson learnt fruit not that good for you after all!  

Chatting about the condition of the snow (deep, powdery and impossible to bike on) and wishing we had brought our ski touring stuff brought us that evening to revising the plans again.  Looking at the map we decided to bike to a hut in Nyifoss and then head back to the tin shack.  

The following morning we packed up and set off.........pushing, a few strokes, pushing, pushing, a few strokes.  After 6 miles repeatedly doing this we made the call to turn round and head back to base camp.  That afternoon we talked about what we should do. Looking at the weather which was predicted to deteriorate, prices to stay places and the snow, we made the call to come home 😥 
It was not an easy choice to make but I think it was the best one.  To add to the joy, that night was not the best for me, I spent most of it in the drop toilet after eating some freeze dried beef.  

The following morning not feeling that grand from the joyful partying in the loo, Matt beasted me the 50 miles back to the bus stop that would to take us back to Reykjavik.   We got to the bus stop in plenty of time and tried to make expensive coffees last as long as we could but we had to give in and buy a pizza 12" £32 to share.

The deep snow altered our plans, but I wouldn't change it, an amazing adventure was had, memories made and yes we got to see in all it's beauty the aurora borealis.

😕Now for the photos that don't do it justice